Waddesdon Manor is a country house in the village of Waddesdon, in Buckinghamshire. It is located in the Aylesbury Vale, 6.6 miles west of Aylesbury. Prior to the construction of Waddesdon Manor, no house existed on the site. Ferdinand de Rothschild wanted a house in the style of the great Renaissance châteaux of the Loire Valley. The Baron, a member of the Viennese branch of the Rothschild banking dynasty, chose as his architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur. Destailleur was already experienced in working in this style, having overseen the restoration of many châteaux in that region, in particular that of the Château de Mouchy.
Through Destailleur's vision, Waddesdon embodied an eclectic style based on the châteaux so admired by his patron, Baron Ferdinand. The towers at Waddesdon were based on those of the Château de Maintenon, and the twin staircase towers, on the north facade, were inspired by the staircase tower at the Château de Chambord. However, following the theme of unparalleled luxury at Waddesdon, the windows of the towers at Waddesdon were glazed, unlike those of the staircase at Chambord. They are also far more ornate. The structural design of Waddesdon, however, was not all retrospective. Hidden from view were the most modern innovations of the late 19th century including a steel frame, which took the strain of walls on the upper floors, which consequently permitted the layout of these floors to differ completely from the lower floors. The house also had hot and cold running water in its bathrooms, central heating, and an electric bell system to summon the numerous servants. The building contractor was Edward Conder & Son.
Once his château was complete, Baron Ferdinand installed his extensive collections of French 18th-century boiseries, Savonnerie carpets, Gobelins and Beauvais tapestries, furniture, Sèvres ceramics, and books, as well as English and Dutch paintings and Renaissance treasures. Works were acquired for their exquisite quality and fine provenance. One of the highlights of the collection is the extraordinary musical automaton elephant, dating from 1774 and made by the French clockmaker H Martinet. Of the ten surviving examples of the Sèvres pot-pourri vase in the shape of a ship from the 1760s, three are at Waddesdon, including one with a very rare scene of a battle connected to the Seven Years' War. In the 1890s, Baron Ferdinand focused on the Renaissance collection for his small museum in the New Smoking Room. This collection was bequeathed to the British Museum and is now known as the Waddesdon Bequest. Subsequent owners added noted collections of Limoges enamel, arms and armour, maiolica, medieval manuscripts, prints and drawings. Waddesdon’s internationally famous collection has thus been formed principally by four members of the Rothschild family: Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-1898), his sister Alice de Rothschild (1847-1922), their cousin Edmond James de Rothschild (1845-1934) and the present Lord Jacob Rothschild (b. 1936).
Extensive landscaping of the hill was carried out, including leveling the top. The gardens and landscape park were laid out by the French landscape architect Elie Lainé. An attempt was made to transplant full-grown trees by chloroforming their roots, to limit the shock. While this novel idea was unsuccessful, many very large trees were successfully transplanted. The gardens were enhanced with statuary, pavilions and an aviary that is still in use. The Proserpina fountain was brought to the Manor at the end of the 19th century from the Palace of the Dukes of Parma in northern Italy: the Ducal Palace of Colorno. The gardens are listed Grade I on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.
Baron Ferdinand played host to many important guests including the future Edward VII. The grounds and house were such a wonder of their day that, in 1890, Queen Victoria invited herself to view them. The Queen was, however, more impressed by the electric lighting in the house than the wonders of the park. Fascinated by the invention she had not seen before, she is reported to have spent ten minutes switching a newly electrified 18th-century chandelier on and off. When Baron Ferdinand died in 1898, the house passed to his sister Alice de Rothschild, who further developed the collections. Following Alice de Rothschild's death in 1922, the property and collections passed to her great-nephew James A. "Jimmy" de Rothschild of the French branch of the family, who further enriched it with objects from the collections of his late father Baron Edmond James de Rothschild of Paris. James hosted a Liberal Party rally at Waddesdon in 1928, where David Lloyd George addressed the crowd. During World War II, children under the age of five were evacuated from London and lived at Waddesdon Manor.
When James de Rothschild died in 1957, he bequeathed Waddesdon Manor, 200 acres of grounds and its contents to the National Trust, to be preserved for posterity. A nearby ancillary property, The Pavilion at Eythrope, became the home of James de Rothschild's widow, Dorothy de Rothschild, usually known as "Mrs James". She took a very keen interest in Waddesdon for the remainder of her long life. Eythrope and the rest of the Waddesdon estate were bequeathed to the 4th Lord Rothschild. Most parts of the garden are accessible. There are gravelled areas immediately in front of the House, on the parterre, and also around the Aviary and steep and uneven paths on the way to the Stables and through the Tulip Patch. The Boardwalk through the Woodland Playground and the pedestrian path from Power House to the Stables are steep in places. They advise visitors to use the fully accessible shuttle bus from the Fountain to the Stables. They have 4 wheelchairs which are available on a first-come, first-served basis, to be used within the House. Most areas of the House are accessible to wheelchair users. However, there is limited access to the Prints and Drawings Rooms, and Wine Cellars. There are chairs available for visitors to sit on in most rooms. They have an accessible toilet in the House, and this is accessed via the tunnel to the basement level, by the Manor Shop Courtyard. There is an accessible toilet in The Stables Courtyard, adjacent to the ladies' toilet. Some of the rooms have large type information booklets available. Assistance dogs are welcome in both the House and Gardens.
Location : Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, Bucks HP18 0JH
Transport : Aylesbury Vale Parkway (National Rail) then free bus (11:03 departure) OR Aylesbury (National Line) then taxi. Bus Routes : 16 and 17 stop 2 miles away, else free bus service.
Opening Times : Wednesday to Sunday, Bank Holidays 10:00 to 17:00; House 12:00 to 16:00
Tickets : Adults £20.00; Children (5 - 16) £10.00
Tickets Grounds Only: Adults £10.00; Children (5 - 16) £5.00
Tel. : 01296 653226